Below is a listing and some descriptions of historic sites in Estill County:
Fitchburg Furnace is one of the “must see” stops for the serious iron furnace enthusiast. Also known as the Red River Furnace, Fitchburg is operated by the U.S. Park Service and is in excellent shape. The furnace is actually two stacks, Blackstone (on the Left) and Chandler (on the Right). The furnace is a solid mass of sandstone built sixty feet high. The base measures forty feet by eighty feet, the interior stacks are fifty feet tall, with twelve and a half foot boshes. They were steam blast, charcoal furnaces with a daily output of twenty-five tons. Built with a total investment of $160,000, they are an impressive sight. The furnaces alone cost $100,000, the remaining money being invested in equipment.
Fitchburg was built largely on greed and speculation. The over speculation in western railroads during the latter part of the 1860′s led many businessmen to become involved in iron production during this period. The fact that the furnace was built as a charcoal furnace when many were converting to coal is clear evidence that experienced furnace owners were not involved. The furnace closed in the Panic of 1873 when the speculation bubble broke, causing a short recession. Additionally, the discovery of iron ore beds in Birmingham, Alabama reduced the need for southern buyers to purchase iron from the Kentucky area.
The furnace utilized limonite (limestone) ore that is found under beds of clay and white shale. A typical charge included 3 tons of ore, 179 bushels of charcoal, and 1.8 tons of limestone flux. Over 1,000 men worked at Fitchburg when it was in operation. -Information obtained fromwww.kaht.net & www.oldindusty.org
The Cottage Furnace is an old iron furnace in rural Estill County that produced “pig iron” in the middle to late 1800′s. The remains are in very good condition.
Legend has it that there was a slave that had escaped from his cruel master and began working at this furnace. One day the cruel master found the slave and began chasing him. Rather than return to slavery and regular beatings, this slave jumped headfirst into the furnace and burned to death in the molten iron ore.
Tragedy also shut this furnace down. In 1879, the owner of this furnace received word that his son had suddenly died. While in shock, the owner shut the furnace down while it was still in full blast. The iron ore solidified and completely blocked the furnace. Because of this fact, the furnace was never able to be fired up again. The iron ore remains inside this furnace to this day. (With permission to use by the Estill Development Alliance) It has a nice parking/picnic area so bring your family, friends, and food and stay awhile. -Information obtained fromwww.kaht.net & www.oldindusty.org